Archaeology on the Eastern Slopes of Canada’s Rocky Mountains

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Samedi, mai 4, 2024 - 1:20pm - 5:00pm
  • Timothy Allan, Ember Archaeology.
  • Todd Kristensen, Archaeological Survey of Alberta.
Contact Email: 
Session Description (300 word max): 

The ‘Eastern Slopes’ is a general ecological region in Western Canada that includes the Rocky Mountains east of the continental divide as well as the topographically diverse foothills that separate the Rockies from northern boreal and southern prairie regions. The Eastern Slopes hosted a variety of pre-contact and historic groups who moved through the mountains and foothills or called them home over the past 12,000 years. We welcome CRM or academic-based papers that explore human adaptations, migrations, or archaeological methods. Presenters are encouraged to re-format their CAA papers for publication in the Archaeological Survey of Alberta’s 2024 Occasional Paper Series, which will be dedicated to archaeology in the Eastern Slopes (submission deadline in October, 2024).

01:20 PM - 01:40 PM: A Tale of Two Sites: Results of a Small-scale Research Program at GbQn-13 and FlQs-35 in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta.
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Erik G. Johannesson - Circle CRM Group Inc.
  • Margarita de Guzman - Circle CRM Group Inc.
  • Alexandra Burchill - Circle CRM Group Inc.

Since 2017, Circle CRM Group has been conducting a small-scale research program in the Grand Cache area in an effort to further investigate in situ buried Early Precontact Period sites in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta. This paper details the results of the 2023 installment of the program, which centered on GbQn-13, a small Early Precontact Period lithic scatter located in the uplands east of Grande Mountain. GbQn-13 was originally identified during a Historic Resources Impact Assessment conducted on behalf of Foothills Forest Products in 2021, and was recorded as a small lithic scatter that included obsidian flakes and a Scottsbluff projectile point base manufactured from black chert. In 2023, further investigations at the site resulted in the recovery of additional materials as well as the identification of a possible hearth feature.  In 2023 Circle also submitted obsidian specimen from GbQn-13, as well as other sites identified during its 2022 and 2023 field seasons for X-ray fluorescence analysis (XFR). Here, the results of this analysis and the ongoing research at GbQn-13 are presented against the backdrop of the program’s previous investigations at nearby FlQs-35 to further situate and contextualize Early Precontact Sites in the Eastern Slopes of Alberta.

01:40 PM - 02:00 PM: Down by the River: 2018 and 2020 Excavations at FlQg-8.
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Taylor Graham - Bison Historical Services Ltd.
  • Tommy Ng - Bison Historical Services Ltd.

In the fall of 2018 and 2022 a Historical Resources Impact Mitigation of FlQg-8 was conducted on banks of the Athabasca River in the eastern slopes of Alberta.  This site contained multiple cultural components determined through the recovery of temporally diagnostic artifacts, as well as evidence of raw material procurement from the nearby river cobbles in the Athabasca.  Of particular note within the site is a nested hearth feature, and several temporally and spatially discreet lithic reduction activity areas that were identified within the predominantly quartzite lithic assemblage based on unique physical characteristics present in the individual cobbles harvested from the river.  The site, features, and methods used will be discussed and interpretations presented.

02:00 PM - 02:20 PM: Fifty Years on the Ranche: A Look Back at Five Decades of Archaeological Investigations at the Cochrane Ranche Site from early 1970s to the most recent excavations in 2019-2020.
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Sean Pickering - Bison Historical Services Ltd.

The Cochrane Ranche Site (EhPo-37), the oldest commercial ranch in Alberta, is one of the earliest Post Contact period archaeological sites investigated after the Historical Resources Act came into law in Alberta in 1973.  Initial investigations at the site began in 1974 and continued through to the late 1970s with investigations focused on the Post Contact 1880s ranching period.  Subsequent investigations at the site in the 1990s and 2000s focused on the Precontact Period occupations at the site.  The latest work from 2018 to 2020 investigated the early to mid-twentieth century use of the site.  The history of the archaeological investigations at the Cochrane Ranche Site since the 1970s to present mirrors the changing and expanding priorities of CRM archaeology over that period, and the implications of this will be discussed.

02:20 PM - 02:40 PM: Reverse Unifaces: A Middle Period Stone Tool Found on the Eastern Slopes
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Jason  Roe - Lifeways of Canada Limited

Reverse Unifaces are a common stone tool found on the Eastern Slopes of Alberta.  This presentation will highlight some of the unique characteristics of this Middle Period tool that make it diagnostic.  I will discuss where they have been found, focusing mostly on Eastern Slopes sites.  Lastly, the argument will be made that there is a specific operational sequence tied directly to the cobbles they are made from to how they were may have been used. 

02:40 PM - 03:00 PM: A Case Study of Mitigation in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Vanessa Ockerman - Department of Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • Hailey Kennedy - Department of Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

In Alberta’s forestry sector, archaeological sites identified during Historical Resource Impact Assessments (HRIA) are typically flagged for avoidance, resulting in rare instances of excavation (HRIM) procedures being conducted. However, beginning with the 2022 field season, the largest mitigative forestry project on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains has been undertaken, as two sites (ElPu-28 and ElPv-5) were identified within a proposed right of way of a new logging haul road, and could not be avoided. This project offers a rare look into the significance shovel testing has on the interpretation of spatial data, regarding archaeological sites near Limestone Mountain. An overview and comparison between these two archaeological sites highlight the importance of understanding the potential bias of judgmental shovel tests, while providing further insights into the archaeological record and the cultural history of Indigenous Peoples residing in the eastern slopes of Alberta.

03:20 PM - 03:40 PM: Ancient DNA Analysis Reveals Expanded Flyway for Northern Curlew (Numenius borealis) During the Late Pleistocene
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Luke Jackman - Ancient DNA Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Jonathan Driver - Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  • Thomas Royle - Ancient DNA Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada / Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, University Museum, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  • Dongya Yang - Ancient DNA Laboratory, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

The archaeological and paleontological faunal assemblage from Tse’K’wa (formerly Charlie Lake Cave;HbRf-39) in northeast British Columbia is an important archive of vertebrate biodiversity since approximately 12,500 cal BP. While zooarchaeological analysis has been conducted on this site’s avian remains, this study is the first ancient DNA analysis of avifauna. A 131 base pair region of the cytochrome c oxidase I gene was sequenced to identify 17 (n=17) shorebird (Charadriiformes) specimens. Through this analysis, seven species not previously detected using morphological methods were identified within the avian assemblage. These species support prior paleoenvironment reconstructions as they shared similar habitats with species previously identified at Tse’K’wa. Additionally, a northern curlew (Numenius borealis) was identified amongst the analyzed specimens. This 11,000-year-old northern curlew genetically differs from 19th century specimens. Moreover, this northern curlew was found hundreds of kilometers outside of the route of the species’ spring migration suggested by 19th and 20th century observations. This suggests that the northern curlew's migratory range may have been larger than previously thought and confirms that the annual migration was established at least 11,000 years ago. 

03:40 PM - 04:00 PM: Obsidian in Alberta and its Implications for Human Dispersal Along and Across the Eastern Slopes
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Todd Kristensen - Archaeological Survey of Alberta
  • Timothy Allan - Ember Archaeology
  • John Ives - University of Alberta
  • Robin Woywitka - MacEwan University
  • Gabriel Yanicki - Canadian Museum of History
  • Jeffrey Rasic - National Park Service

We utilize pXRF to source the oldest obsidian artifacts in Alberta. The province lacks obsidian outcrops: each archaeological site with obsidian (n=525) is indicative of long-distance human mobility. We summarize sourcing results from artifacts that inform human dispersal through the Late Pleistocene Ice-Free Corridor and across the Rocky Mountains as Alberta and British Columbia deglaciated through the Early Holocene. Results point to an early establishment of relationships in the central Ice-Free Corridor that reached into Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. Alberta appears to have been entered principally by people from the south who had ties to the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West. Limited evidence suggests that northern people from Beringia may have trickled south and admixed with southern populations in the central Corridor region. We discuss obsidian from western sources in British Columbia (Anahim Peak and Edziza) that arrived relatively quickly in northern and western Alberta.

04:00 PM - 04:20 PM: Obsidian Sourcing on the Eastern Slopes
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Timothy Allan - Ember Archaeology

               In an update to the ongoing work of the Alberta Obsidian Project, here we present results of sourcing efforts on the eastern slopes, including the Front Ranges of the Rockies, as well as Jasper, Banff and Waterton Lakes national parks. We found that the diversity of obsidian sources used at archaeological sites is much greater than other regions of the province. The sources of obsidian indicate that the eastern slopes of Alberta were part of trade networks or mobility patterns that connected indigenous peoples in the Southern Rocky Mountains (Idaho and Wyoming), Great Basin (Oregon and southern Idaho), as well as the Coastal Mountains and Interior of British Columbia. We suggest that the eastern slopes formed the border of a major north-south travel corridor along the edge of the Rocky Mountains of North America but was also home to people engaged in east-west long distance trade networks.

04:20 PM - 04:40 PM: Not Another Swan Song - Excavations at the Swan Creek Site (FaPs-14)
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Joshua Read - Stantec

Mitigative excavations undertaken at the Swan Creek Site (FaPs-14) in 2022 have resulted in the identification and interpretation of a small-scale Oxbow campsite situated within the Eastern Slopes region. In addition to the recovery of diagnostic artifacts and other lithic tools, microbotanical remains have been analysed from the site which provide a unique insight into the foodways of precontact peoples inhabiting the area. Details regarding the site identification and subsequent excavation, further information about the analyses undertaken on the recovered assemblage, and how the site can be interpreted relative to other Oxbow sites in the region, are discussed and presented.

04:40 PM - 05:00 PM: Early Prehistoric Occupation of James Pass, Alberta
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Bob Dawe - Royal Alberta Museum
  • Brian Ronaghan

It has been almost 30 years since the completion of archaeological field study by the Provincial Museum of Alberta in James Pass in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain Eastern Slopes. A series of multicomponent sites were identified occupying the periphery of a large spring-fed basin situated between two Front Range peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  Recently obtained dates indicate precontact use of this area began more than 12,500 years ago and provide additional insight into the character of early prehistoric use of Alberta’s Mountain ecosystems. An examination of the lithic assemblages from these sites suggests development of a technology that placed heavy reliance on local lithic sources. This Eastern Slopes location provides a significant contribution to our understanding of the initial peopling of Alberta. The evidence of subsequent occupation when compared to other montane and Plains assemblages suggests an archaeological record of coherent regional prehistoric human adaptation to this unique landscape in early postglacial times.